Thursday, February 12, 2015

What she said

 My mother went out on a song.
Her service was wonderful, we had jazz, my son made her an Old Fashion to set next to her urn, the grandchildren out did themselves by standing in testimony of her life. A friend, as close as a sister, stood and told great stories about her.
At last we rose to walk out with, when the saints go marching in.

My dear sister wrote this:

A friend once told me, with awe in his voice, “Your mother’s whole house looks like my grandmother’s attic”. It’s true.  Some people grow up in a house where they’re told, “There’s a place for everything and everything in its place”. In our house it was more like, “Where it lands it belongs”. In Anna Henderson’s house a lot of things…and people…belonged. My dad used to tell her that no horizontal surface was safe in our house. He called her housekeeping domiciliary drift. If you lay something down in one room it will seemingly – and of its own accord - drift to another location. All true and the reason it’s true is because mom was a collector.

She loved art and she collected it. She was a big supporter of local artists. When I was in high school there were not many local art openings she did not attend and when she went she spent. I don’t know if Berenstein’s gave out frequent flyer miles for framing, but with the miles mom would have accumulated she could have circumnavigated the globe more than once. Never a fan of big box stores, she loved to patronize local businesses and she loved good service and she rewarded both with her loyalty.

Mom loved pottery. Not only did she have a personal connection for a steady supply of some very fine stoneware, but she enjoyed a variety of ceramic artists and she loved supporting local even when it wasn’t exactly local to her. She thoroughly enjoyed going to the annual auction at the North Carolina Pottery Center in Seagrove and bidding on pieces. She had an appreciation of finely crafted goods and she also loved the game of getting a child or grandchild to do her bidding – literally - and to enter the winning bid at the last second on any silent auction pieces that had struck her fancy. She did it with a twinkle in her eye. I ought to know because I saw that twinkle when she outbid me. Twice.

Mom loved to cook and she was good at it. Our Dad always said that no one should ever pass up the chance to sit at Anna Henderson’s table. He was a great admirer of her culinary skills…and of her. She was preparing ethnic foods at a time when most folks considered Chef Boyardee in a can to be exotic fare. Both my folks were good cooks. In fact they once took a French cooking class given by Barton Connett. This particular class was called upon to prepare and serve a four course dinner featuring coq au vin for a fundraiser for the Norfolk Museum (before it was the Chrysler). As luck would have it after the initial set up by the class, Mom and Dad ended up being the only two students available to serve the dinner to several hundred hungry patrons and then to do the clean up after. And so they did. They followed the commitment through to the end even though it was not exactly what they had planned for that evening. And that is something they instilled in us kids: if you make a commitment follow it through.

There were a lot of things that Mom loved. She loved to read. She told me about how, when she was a young girl (and in her words, “In my youth, back when the earth was cooling”) she would take a book and go tuck herself in among the vines of her grandfather’s grape arbor and read to her hearts’ content. She also instilled a love of reading in all of her children. I suspect she did so just so she could get a few minutes’ peace and quiet with the five of us running around. Her taste in books ran the gamut from mysteries to history, word origins and mathematical theory. She appreciated a good turn of phrase and writing that kept you engaged in the story.

She loved all kinds of music from jazz & blues to gospel, blue grass and folk. Mom had a beautiful voice. Something I didn’t always appreciate – like when she would sing (usually – but not always - softly) while we were grocery shopping. If she really liked the tune she might stop and do a dance step or two right there in the canned goods aisle. At 13 I had less an appreciation for that than I would had she done it, say, a year or so ago.  I didn’t know until just this past summer that mom had singing lessons as a child. It’s one of those things you discover when you take time to sit a spell and listen.

One of mom’s favorite sayings was, let’s just sit, scratch & tell lies. Of course she didn’t tell lies, but she did entertain. That was the Southern Belle in her. You didn’t just sit, you conversed and she could talk on just about any subject. She was both well read and well spoken and there was nothing she loved better than to have a chat with friends and family.

Most of all Mom loved people. She collected people in much the same way that she collected art, pottery, good books and favorite songs. An only child, mom surrounded herself with children whom she loved unconditionally. Having five kids in the first five years of marriage guaranteed she didn’t have a whole lot of time to call her own, but she was o.k. with that. Not content with just her five, she reveled in being the house where kids and friends of kids gathered. Everyone was welcome and was met with a kind word and a heartfelt embrace. She opened her home, her heart and her kitchen to all comers.

Smart, funny, kind and generous Mom was a lot of things to a lot of people and I’m thankful that we had her as long as we did. So when my friend remarked that mom’s house looked like his grandmother’s attic I took that as a compliment. After all, isn’t that where you keep your most cherished treasures? Mom did.

Written by Leslie Williams 

It was wonderful, she would have loved it.


Tracey Broome said...

This leaves me wishing I had met your mother. But I have met you, and you two are cut from the same cloth. Many of these wonderful things can also be written about you!
Thanks for sharing this, now for some tissues....
and lunch soon!!

DirtKicker Pottery said...

Beautiful. Thanks so much for sharing this.

Gary's third pottery blog said...

It is easy to see she was wonderful, based on knowing you and your sister Leslie! And amongst her treasures I think is one of my pots, too.... what a great post and tribute.

Linda Starr said...

what a beautiful post and tribute, your mom was a wonderful woman

Laurie said...

Your Mom sounded pretty special... not surprising knowing you. The service sounds like it honored her well.

Barbara Rogers said...

I didn't know her, nor you, yet...but reading this made me wish I had. Thanks for the sweet and sincere homage to a woman who lived life fully and is still carried in the hearts of those who loved her.

Lori Buff said...

Your mom sounded like a pretty amazing woman. I'm sorry for your loss.

Michèle Hastings said...

A beautiful tribute. You have been in my thoughts. It's so hard to lose a mother.